Friday, July 3, 2020

Book cover: "Atomic Plot"
(Dale of the Mounted #9)

  • Title: Atomic Plot
  • Series: Dale of the Mounted #9 (12 books published between 1951 and 1962)
  • Author: Joe Holliday
  • Cover illustrator: Keith Ward
  • Publisher: Thomas Allen, Limited (Toronto, Canada)
  • Original price: None listed on dust jacket
  • Year: 1959
  • Pages: 158
  • Format: Hardcover
  • Dust jacket excerpt: "From the moment Pakistan scientist Dr. Sachi Rami gets out of the plane at Ottawa's Upland airport with his bodyguard the bearded, turbaned Chaudri, and his shy Hindu secretary, Kelomé, trouble dogs his footsteps. Here's a thrilling tale of high intrigue in the fascinating world of atomic energy at Canada's famed Chalk River atom plant in the Gatineau hills."
  • Is Chalk River a real place? Yes, Chalk River Laboratories (formerly Chalk River Nuclear Laboratories) was, according to Wikipedia, established in 1944 "to promote peaceful use of nuclear energy." There were two nuclear accidents there in the 1950s.
  • Dedication: "Dedicated to those workers at Chalk River, Ontario, who are putting the might atom to work for peaceful uses on behalf of mankind — and a better world."
  • First sentence: "Constable Dale Thompson of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police waited patiently, seated in the jeep truck at the edge of Ottawa's Upland Airport."
  • Last paragraph: "Dale was immensely pleased. He shook hands with his friends from across the other side of the world. 'I'm going to miss you two!' he said sincerely.
  • Random sentence from the middle #1: "This was what the newspapers fondly called 'atom-smashing.'"
  • Random sentence from the middle #2: "Doctor Rami ventured a comment that a report from the British atomic people showed that along their Cumberland coast much of the radioactivity in the waters was absorbed by the masses of seaweed."
  • About the author: The dust jacket is the best source of biographical information about Joe Holliday that I can find. He was born in 1910 in the Rock of Gibraltar, where his father was a police constable. He worked as a prison guard for a year and began his writing career in 1932. "During the early 1940's he was publicity-photographer with deHavilland Aircraft of Canada, helping publicize the grand work of their Mosquito bombers in overseas operations," the dust jacket states.
  • Blog travels #1: Brian Busby, in a December 2014 post on his still-going The Dusty Bookcase ("A Journey Through Canada's Forgetten, Neglected and Suppressed Writing") states: "First off, I should make it clear that the book I really wanted to read is Dale of the Mounted: Atomic Plot. Published in 1959, it involves a Pakistani scientist, East Indian religious fanatics and a terrorist attack on Canada's Chalk River nuclear research facility. I read Dale of the Mounted: Atlantic Assignment only because it turned up in our local library's most recent used book sale." He goes on to note: "Dale of the Mounted books were once very popular, each landing in early November so as to take advantage of Christmas gift giving. Having been born the year the series ended, I never received one myself, but I remember a friend's older brother having a few." ... It's a really great post, and you should continue into its comments section to learn more about Dale.
  • Blog travels #2: Jennifer White, in an April 2016 post on her still-ongoing Series Books for Girls, relates this: "I am not currently attending very many estate sales, since I only go if I see something in the preview pictures that looks quite promising or if the sales are in my immediate area. Three estate sales were in my immediate area today, and I knew that one of them had a sock monkey. My mother collects sock monkeys. I first went to the sale with the sock monkey. I entered the house and scouted out the room with the dolls and picked up the sock monkey. Next, I leisurely went back through all the rooms to see if I could find anything else. Unexpectedly, the sale also had the first book in the Dale of the Mounted series. The Dale of the Mounted book was in the living room in a small stack of books that the estate sale company considered special items. ... The Dale of the Mounted series is obscure, and I acquired three of them around six weeks ago. I had tried reading one, but it was a bit dry with many technical details. Nevertheless, what I read was still interesting, but I really wanted to read the first book instead to get a better idea of the series, so I quit reading. I was thrilled to find the first book. I will have to read it sometime soon to find out whether it is worth pursuing the rest of the series."

We can be better. And more mindful of what we teach and celebrate.

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Catching up with Postcrossing
(Summer 2020)

Arrived in my mailbox from Taiwan

Even more than usual because of the COVID-19 pandemic and our venturing-out-less lifestyles, Postcrossing, postcard exchanges and pen pals have kept me connected with the outside world in 2020. Here's another roundup of some of the interesting communications.

I. Arrivals in my mailbox

  • Kristiina from Finland wrote: "Now when we have to stay at home, I've done a lot of gardening. The apples have already been cut and the grass fertilized."
  • Anke from Germany wrote: "I like to read books and trips into nature with my bike."
  • Tuula from Finland wrote (on June 2): "I am a retired librarian, and just now I am very happy, because our libraries are now open again, after 11 weeks COVID-19 break. Restaurants are also open with some limits of opening times and number of clients. Little steps to the 'normal life.'"
  • Brigi from Hungary wrote: "My favorite hobbies are reading (esp. classic detective fiction) and being with my cat, Monty. It's been such a comfort to have him around now that I've been working from home."
  • Monique from the Netherlands wrote: "We actually wanted to travel to the USA this summer, but it will probably take another year because of corona and the regulations."

II. Postcrossing profiles

Every once in a while, I come across a fascinating Postcrossing profile that I want to preserve because it's such an honest snapshot of a moment. For example, this one from a 24-year-old in China:
"I picked up a black stray cat and named it fini, which originated from Phoenix. It's very naughty and timid. I'm helpless about it. ... I have a small bookshelf with many books on it, but I haven't sat down to read a book completely for a long time. I dream that one day I can make a cup of black tea in a warm afternoon and sit quietly by the window and read a book I like. ... I like traveling very much, usually walking around in China. I have a passport, but I haven't been abroad. I dream that I can have one holiday after another, enjoy the great rivers and mountains of my motherland, and enjoy different landscapes in different countries."

III. Thank-you emails for postcards from me

  • Sven from Germany wrote: "Thank you very much for your beautiful card with the nice stamps (yes, I like the Apollo one). ... You have a very important job. It's necessary to tell the facts though a lot of governments and state leaders around the world don't like them."
  • Gerda from the Netherlands wrote: "Thank you for your card and the wonderful stamp of the black cat. I'm going to search for your blog. Our active lockdown is a little bit better for us since 15 June. We are going today to a camping with about 20 friends and stay a night. We have so much to talk since the last time in Febr. when we saw each other for the last time. All in the open air! For my work, I work as much as possible at home. My husband, son and daughter have to work all the time at the factory, harbor and hospital."
  • Sandy & Ruben from the Netherlands wrote: "Thank you very much for the lovely postcard. It is truth that our kids grow up in a very strange time. But yet I see how my son grows up knowing that we are all equal and, even though he is still young, he is already acting like it, treating all people with kindness and a warm heart, which makes me a very proud mom."
  • Aretha from Taiwan wrote: "What you said about art, I couldn't agree more. I often secretly hope I will never fail to find beauty in anything, it gives me hope especially during the difficult time. I wish you & your family stay safe and healthy through these crazy times."
  • Thomas from Germany wrote: "A few minutes ago, I stopped watching the impossible self-grandiosity of D. Trump on the occasion of a speech at White House. So unbearable!"
  • Jenny from the United Kingdom wrote (in mid-May): "Many thanks for the card, the stamps are great too. I'm currently in week 8 of lockdown and like you I have only been out for a walk or run or to get groceries. I live near London which has been badly affected by Covid, but am also worried that people are starting to ignore the advice and going out more with other people. I'm still working but as you say it's good to have more time to do other things while I'm at home, particularly gardening which I've enjoyed."
  • Žydrolė from Germany wrote: "Have a delightful day, full of sunshine and warmth! And be healthy! These evil times will one day end."

Arrived in my mailbox from Germany. "I've found a card from your wall of favorites!" Claus wrote.

Sunrise and light

"(Murnau's Sunrise demonstrates) that good and evil are both part of living, that our mistakes and our suffering need not ruin us, but that what these events mean to us and what we do with them is what matters, for they may indeed become the very means by which our tomorrow may prove to be a better day."
— Dorothy Jones, "Sunrise: A Murnau Masterpiece," Quarterly Review of Film, Radio, and Television, Spring 1955 (via Lucy Fischer's 1998 BFI Film Classics monograph on the film)

"... as we move through this life we should try and do good ..."
"... what most people don't see is just how hard it is to do the right thing ..."
"... Sometimes people need a little help. Sometimes people need to be forgiven ..."
" ...but if you can forgive someone ... well, that's the tough part. What can we forgive?"
— Jim Kurring, character in Paul Thomas Anderson's Magnolia (1999)

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Snapshot of COVID-19 headlines

It's been almost exactly three months since I wrote my second of two posts about The Stand and shared a snapshot in time of news headlines and tweets related to the COVID-19 pandemic. This is, of course, going to be the most-documented crisis in history. I know people who have already filled multiple personal journals about life in 2020. Content about this moment in history, which now includes a seismic and necessary movement to end police brutality and racial injustice, is omnipresent. Future historians should have no trouble finding more eyewitness sources and accounts than they will possibly need.

And yet I still feel my own personal need to document 2020 in small ways — ways that are unique to how I've always hoarded bits of history and daily life. I've been filling envelopes with emails, printed tweets, magazine articles and other ephemera of note. Much of it relates to my job at the newspaper, offering an inside-baseball glimpse of how journalists are navigating 2020.

As I did on March 25, I'm putting together another aggregation of tweets and headlines from this week. It's hard to ascend to 40,000 feet and examine all the changes of mindset and priorities we've had in the past 100 days, but perhaps there are some comparisons to be made.

  • Live updates: Florida, South Carolina and Nevada hit new highs in daily coronavirus cases
  • Ana Cabrera (CNN): CA Gov Newsom: “We are in the midst of the first wave of this pandemic...We are not out of the first wave. This disease does not take a summer vacation.”
  • Young people are driving a spike in coronavirus infections, officials say
  • City of Lancaster: As we enter into the green phase today, remember that COVID-19 is still in our community. Please continue to take precautions like wearing a mask, using hand sanitizer or washing your hands often, and maintaining social distance.
  • The Philadelphia Inquirer: Masks are now mandatory in Philadelphia.
  • DOJ warns against fake face mask exemption cards
  • ProPublica: Positive cases are not increasing just because there is more testing, as the president has claimed, but because in many states the virus is simply spreading more.
  • Texas governor says he let bars reopen too quickly
  • Texans must ‘dramatically change’ behavior to stop hospitals from being overwhelmed, hospital executive says
  • Ana Cabrera: At least 11 states have currently paused or rolled back their reopening plans
  • Contact tracing is ‘a disaster’ in hard-hit Maricopa County, Arizona congressman says
  • MODEL: Phoenix could see 28,000 new infections a DAY!
  • CT, NJ, NY implement mandatory 14-day quarantine for travelers from hotspots
  • CUOMO: Police will stop cars with out-of-state plates
  • EU prepares to ban American travelers as borders reopen on July 1
  • Dana Goldstein: In some regions of the country, state officials will allow districts to reopen without strictly following the guidance for distancing, masking and sanitation. In all regions, I expect that school attendance will *not* be compulsory, meaning you can choose to keep your kid home.
  • Pence tries to put positive spin on pandemic despite surging cases in South and West
  • Zeynep Tufekci: VP Pence today did not emphasize the need to wear masks. Masks are the *one* thing most everyone can do, but if conservative leaders don't lead on it, it will disappear down the polarization rabbit hole. They must know this. And yet.. 2020 is the true end of the American Century.
  • Making men feel manly in masks is, unfortunately, now a public-health challenge of our time
  • Biden says he would use federal power to require masks
  • Johns Hopkins doctor suggests politicians should put aside personal opinions and wear masks (Fox News)
  • 'Herd immunity music festival' set for July
  • Coronavirus infection rate spiking in California, a troubling sign of community spread
  • Ana Cabrera: #URGENT: U.S. sees highest single day of new COVID-19 cases, with 40,173 cases reported Friday, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

Mystery RPPC: Trio within oval

Time flies! Somehow, this is the first Mystery RPPC since April 18.

I think we can assume this trio to be a mother and her two sons dressed up for a nice backyard portrait. It's an unused AZO postcard with a stamp box that dates it to between 1904 and 1918. So, at some point, this family — more than a century ago — went through its own pandemic. Did they get sick? Did they wear masks in public and wash their hands often? Or did they agree with bozos like the Anti-Mask League of San Francisco? Or perhaps this family had the means to move to the country and wait out the worst of the pandemic.

It's also possible, if this photo was taken at the early end of the 1904 to 1918 range, that these two boys served the Great War. Meanwhile, the passage of the 19th Amendment, which guaranteed the right to vote for women, didn't happen until 1920. So, when this picture was snapped, Mom couldn't vote.

They, as we do, certainly lived in interesting and transformative times.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Oh, that's what a mourning dove sounds like

I've been thinking recently about my grandmother's vinyl records that featured nothing but bird songs. She had about a half-dozen of them, and would play them on the living room record player cabinet that was about the size of a refrigerator turned on its side. They were probably from the late 1960s through early 1980s. I don't remember the exact titles — we got rid of all them during the house cleanout — but they were surely like the ones pictured above, if not those exact ones.

The record formats were similar. A Very Serious Man's Voice would guide you through different bird calls and songs. So it would go something like this...

Man: The Hoary Puffleg...

Bird: Chit-chit-chit-chit.

Man: ... The Hoary Puffleg.

(The Hoary Puffleg is not actually native to North America and would not have been featured on my grandmother's records. But I didn't want to miss the opportunity to get "Hoary Puffleg" on Papergreat.)

We've been doing a lot of bird and wildlife watching during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has kept us in our homes and neighborhoods for 98% of our existence since mid-March. (And we've been documenting our observations in the "What I Know About Flower Arranging" blank book I mentioned in 2014.)

Our backyard has three bird feeders, a bird bath and a tiny picnic table for squirrels and chipmunks (and the occasional bluejay) to dine on peanuts and sunflower seeds mere inches away from the four cats. Our wildlife roster includes birds, rabbits, chipmunks, squirrels and a pudgy field mouse. I make sure all the feeders are full at least once a day, sometimes twice, and the backyard has truly become a haven for all of this half-tame wildlife. Chipmunks scurried back and forth near my feet the other day as I was outside talking to Dad. The birds, especially one catbird, are slower to fly to safety each time I venture outside.

And I've been observing more of the wildlife interaction, too. The cardinal couples that are most inseparable. The bold robins. Birds the size of a salt shaker that dart in and out among larger animals with seemingly zero fear. Birds that aggressively knock seed out of the bird feeder and onto the ground below, because apparently they prefer it that way. Or they're just jerks of the bird kingdom. And doves. So many doves. I think those ground-feeding doves are getting the bulk of the food I put out, because they're always there.

But I didn't put 2 and 2 together. I recently found myself wondering about an especially common bird call I'd been hearing throughout the day. It must be some especially cool bird, I thought. It almost sounded like an owl. Nope, Joan informed me, it was just those silly doves. I guess I would have known that if I had listened more closely to my grandmother's records.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Real Heroes Wear Masks (that cover the mouth and nose)!

I love everything about this hand-drawn poster, which has been in the door of Comix Connection in York throughout the spring and early summer. (The artist's name is Nicky.) The message remains important for everyone during this still-ongoing COVID-19 health crisis. It's great to see Nadia van Dyne, Lunella Lafayette and Kamala Khan among those reaching out to comic book fans with this guidance. Baron Von Papergreat would, of course, also always properly wear a mask in public.

Further reading